Forty five days in Australia (Fair dinkum)

Number of days: 45 (30 when we didn't ride)

Distance cycled: 1468km cycled (Trip total 6008km)

Longest day: 146km

Distance driven: 3952km (in 6 days!)

Nights camped: 15

Crossings of the Great Dividing Range: three

Get downs: Luke 0 Flora 1 (Benoit!)

Kangaroo selfies: a couple each, at least

Accordion serenades: one, to the Pogues!

Places/people we didn’t want to leave: Lots

Best bits: Swimming with actual Dolphins, Melbourne, Beechworth, Broulee, Brisbane. Kangaroo dodging in the Northern Territory.

A place we liked a whole lot more than we thought we would. After being all misty eyed with New Zealand we expected Australia to be big, hot, brash and monotonous in comparison. It was very hot, and impressively vast, but also extremely varied and not quite so stereotypically brazen either. Travel and food is generally expensive, but it was certainly possible to cycle and camp very cheaply and we found the locals to be very hospitable towards bicyclists. Whilst we didn’t end up riding as far as we could have, or would have liked, it was more than worth it as we were able to see friends we hadn’t seen in ages (who spoilt us rotten), meet friends of friends and make some new ones. Having only really skimmed the surface of this island in order to make progress towards Asia, we know there’s some serious adventure to come back for.

Swimming with Dolphins

Aus | Brisbane - Darwin | 15th Mar '15 - 1st Apr '15 | 6008km

Keen to experience the vastness of the Northern Territory we’d always intended to look into car relocations. We struck lucky and found a solitary 4x4 that needed to go from Brisbane to Darwin, leaving in a week. We’d both loved Australia and could easily have spent a year exploring the whole country, but this time, after 4 months in Australasia we were ready to make some progress North-Westwards. The touring purist in Luke swallowed his pride and confirmed the booking.

That left a bunch of time to catch up with the two old friends that had whisked us away from the bus station the previous evening. Stu and Amy’s previously tidy flat became HBD HQ as we duly redistributed the contents of our panniers everywhere. Making our best guess at what kit we’d need for riding in South East Asia we went about procuring Malaria tablets, a water purifier, a second hand army tarpaulin and mozzie nets. The bikes got new chains and cassettes, both having measured well off the chart for wear levels.  Despite our best efforts to repack as lightly as possible, it still looks like a lot of stuff when it's laid out on the floor!

Between visits to the rooftop pool, the Koala farm, a Broncos game (go Broncos!) and Brisbane city's best bits, we headed down to Gold Coast to try our hand at fishing. We didn’t reel in anything big enough to keep but a pod of dolphins appeared as close as 15m away. Given we where all at least ankle deep at the time we’ll class that as swimming with dolphins!

We picked up the car, a massive VW Amarok complete with snorkel, fridge and 4 person tent. After refusing to pay to reduce the huge excess we tiptoed it back to HQ and crammed the bikes in. We spent 6 days dodging kangaroos and emus, sleeping under the newly acquired mozzie net and listening to the humungous road train roll by. Due to the kamikaze kangaroos, our insurance was invalid after dark, which meant driving pretty solidly each day to make up the best part of 4000k in 6 days. Towards Darwin, we encountered more and more WWII sites. We didn’t appreciate quite how worried Australia was about invasion from Japan. Darwin was indeed badly bombed at one stage and Japanese subs were found a far down the coast as Sydney harbour!

The humidity in Darwin was oppressive and we were seriously questioning how we’d manage to ride in it. We had aspirations of finding a boat to Tiimor and just as it looked ni-on impossible (it was still the tail end of cyclone season) we actually found one that would take us. The problem was that he wasn’t leaving for two weeks. As much as we loved the idea, we’d been off the bikes for a while, and Darwin wasn’t the cheapest place to hang around, so we bit the bullet and booked the last two seats on a flight to Dili.

World Tour MS

Aus | Broulee - Nowra - Wollongong - Sydney | 6th Mar '15 - 14th Mar '15 | 6008km

We begrudgingly left the beaches of Broulee with full bellies and some advanced yoga techniques to practice (Flora *will* master the shoulder stand!), heading North.

At Bateman’s Bay we rejoined the Princes Highway. Since hitting the coast we’d already spent a day trudging up it and it wasn’t much fun. Whilst thinking though the limited route options to Sydney we approached a gaggle of brightly clothed guys on the side of the road. Waving enthusiastically they were keen to chat and we soon established that they were a group of 6 French cyclists also heading for Sydney. They were on the Australian leg of a round the world ride, raising awareness for MS and had already ridden through parts of Europe, North America, over the Andes and South Africa. Central to the group was Gerrard, father of one of the guys, who himself had suffered from MS for 10 years. Between the 5 of them, they were towing him the whole way in a modified trike, attached to a tandem. 

As we left them in the lay by they had flagged us down from, we were hugely impressed and realising it would be a shame not to see them again. Thankfully, about a minute later, we were on the recieving end of pretty severe belling as the tandem/trike set up romped by us, all occupants grinning. They weren’t messing around and used the momentum of the tandem trike to great effect. It did, however, look like incredibly hard work going uphill (reminder that they crossed the Andes), with two handles on the back of the trike used to help push as soon as the momentum wore out. Between the five of them, they rotated who rode the tandem and there was never an occasion where two of them weren’t behind the trike when it slowed. We helped out the best we could and both found the groups unbridled enthusiasm inspirational.

With a larger group and not much reason to complain about anything given the exploits of our present company, the Highway didn’t seem so bad and we gladly accepted the invitation to join forces on the run in to Sydney. As it only takes two French men at most to change a puncture, it’s nice to have another three to play the guitar, accordion and violin whilst you perch on the side of the road.

Over 4 days we became very fond of the Frenchies! Before we parted ways in the Sydney twilight - them heading for a hostel and us down to Circular keys for the obligatory Opera House photo - we vowed to meet for celebratory beers before they headed for Japan and the next leg of their tour. If you’d like to read more about their exploits, and watch some nice videos they’ve made along the way, you can do so here.

In Sydney we took the advice of some local riders and booked a train up to Brisbane, the proposition of more Highway riding on our own not being of great appeal. 15 hours and a bus transfer later we rolled into Queensland and Brisbane train station. Two people were waiting in the empty car park...